As the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines expands, employers are wondering whether they can mandate employees be vaccinated. While there are potential public health benefits to this approach, there are several issues to consider before implementing any vaccination-related policies.
According to recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance, employers can legally implement mandatory vaccine policies with potential exceptions for ADA and religious accommodations, and state law. However, it could be a challenge to implement such a policy without the majority of your employees’ buy-in.
Employers should be mindful that vaccines may not be widely available depending on state and local distribution schedules. In some jurisdictions, vaccine distribution is in phases. It will be essential for employers to assess the potential impact on employees’ morale, work environment, and culture based on their company’s direction regarding vaccinations.
Additionally, there are other risks to consider. If employers require vaccinations, it could potentially lead to litigation or Workers Compensation claims if, for example, an employee experiences side effects from the vaccination. The employer must also ensure workers are not negatively impacted based on their vaccine decision, while prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.
Regardless of the direction the organization decides to take regarding vaccines, there is a likelihood employees will pursue vaccination. Consider a policy encouraging employees to get COVID-19 vaccines rather than mandating them. Additionally, continue having workplace safety protocols, promoting masks, physical distancing, and handwashing.
Seek legal guidance before implementing any such program.
To learn more about the EEOC guidance for employers on vaccines, click here.